Those who watched Brenton Tarrant growing up in the sleepy Australian country town of Grafton say they had no inkling of his potential to allegedly unleash evil in merciless attacks at two New Zealand mosques that claimed at least 49 lives.
The chief suspect in New Zealand’s worst mass shooting in modern history grew up in a modest house in suburban Grafton, a close-knit town of 20,000 on the Clarence River in northern New South Wales state.
“I’ve caught up with some of his classmates and they remember him as a bit of a class clown,” Huxley said Saturday. “But staff remember him as a bit of a disruptive student who was prone at times to being quite cruel to his classmates.”
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“I can’t believe that somebody I’ve probably had daily dealings with and had d conversations and interacted with would be capable of something this extreme,” Gray told Nine Network television.
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“It is very upsetting, actually,” Brigid said. “I think pretty much everyone is in the same boat of being very upset about it. It’s not something you would expect from someone from such a small community because everyone is well-known.”
Gray said Tarrant had left Grafton by early 2012. He travelled the world, including what New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as sporadic visits there. Police say he spent little time in Australia during the past four years.
Travelled to Bulgaria, Turkey, Croatia
Authorities in Bulgaria, Turkey and Croatia have confirmed that Tarrant had been to their countries in 2016-2018. Hungarian counterterrorism authorities also suggested that Tarrant had visited, but revealed no other information, and local media in Bosnia reported a 2017 trip there.
This image taken from CCTV video obtained by the state-run Turkish broadcaster TRT World and made available on Saturday shows the arrival of a man who it says is Brenton Tarrant in Istanbul’s Ataturk International airport in Turkey in March 2016. (TRT World via AP)
During his livestream, Tarrant exposed his apparent fascination with the religious conflicts in Europe and the Balkans — a volatile region that has been the site of some of Europe’s most violent clashes.
Tarrant’s soundtrack as he drove to the Christchurch mosque included a nationalist Serb song from the 1992-95 Bosnian war that tore apart Yugoslavia, and an image of rifles posted online contained the names of legendary Serbs and Montenegrins who fought against rule by the Muslim Ottomans in the Balkans, written in the Cyrillic alphabet used by the two Orthodox Christian nations.
Revives memories of Bosnian war
Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov, said Friday that Tarrant last year rented a car and toured more than a dozen cities, visiting historic sites from Nov. 9 to Nov. 15. He was mainly interested in the battles between Christians and the Ottoman army, the prosecutor said.
The Interior Ministry said Bulgaria is co-ordinating with counterterrorism teams from various countries, including the United States, over Tarrant. An investigation has been launched into whether he had contacts with local citizens, authorities said.
In Bosnia, many residents said the massacre in New Zealand and Tarrant’s mention of Karadzic, who has been convicted of genocide, have brought back their own horrific memories of the Bosnian war, which killed more than 100,000 people.